What a Difference a Scrum Makes!

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Author Image - Elizabeth Hair

By Elizabeth Hair

Elizabeth is an experienced Project Manager, manageing project across numerous digital and traditional sectors.

No, not a rugby scrum! I know we have recently been in the midst of the Rugby World Cup, but I’m talking about a different kind of scrum all together; the kind that results in software delivery. The two may share a name, but that’s where the commonalities end.

This kind of Scrum is an Agile framework, and as such is based on the Agile principles, AKA the Agile Manifesto, which promotes:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

What it comes down to is people, products, teamwork and flexibility - always sounds great to me!

You may have come across the term Agile in the past months, as it seems to have become an industry buzzword (plus, we follow Agile methodologies wherever possible at Leighton, so our clients hear the word regularly). However, for those who understand and know how to use it, it’s so much more than that.

So, what is Scrum?

To put it simply, Scrum is a framework that can be used to deliver projects. Many of the projects we deliver utilise Scrum, thanks to the several Scrum Masters we have at Leighton, and the main ideas behind this framework are collaboration, communication and transparency. Scrum provides the tools to break big, complex projects down into smaller, manageable, deliverable tasks.

Some benefits of Scrum include:

  • Frequent product deliveries
  • Less time wasted
  • Lower cost
  • Quicker production of a minimum viable product
  • Deliver stakeholder/business requirements quickly
  • Take a product to market and receive customer feedback quicker
  • Flexibility to change requirements and priorities
  • Opportunity for continuous feedback

Applying Scrum

I recently became a Certified ScrumMaster after completing a Scrum Master course with Agil8 and can now proudly add myself to the list Scrum Masters already at Leighton. While on this course, I learned a lot about Scrum itself and more importantly, how to apply it in the real world. I had a decent understanding of Scrum and how it worked before going on the course, but in many ways my perceptions of the framework have changed.

My most important takeaway from the course was that Scrum is not rigid. You can adopt Scrum in the way it will best work for you. I expected rigidity, but it is actually very flexible and can be adapted to meet your business needs.

The thing to remember is Scrum is all about making software development and delivery more efficient and reducing waste. Achieving this in every company is different, as there are many factors that come into play when trying to apply Scrum in a business:

  • Stakeholder buy-in
  • Organisational culture
  • Team buy-in
  • Understanding
  • Customer buy-in

And it's here where the flexibility of the framework really comes into play - you really do get out what you put in, so even moving a few steps along the scale from waterfall to Scrum can be of huge benefit.

What does Scrum mean to clients?

Where to begin! There are many important benefits to clients, including:

  • Involvement - throughout the Scrum process a stakeholder representative is always involved, with frequent visibility being given to the wider stakeholder group. The representative is the product owner and advocates for the client, ensuring their needs are met. This involvement makes sure the client gets exactly what they want.
  • Transparency - transparency is another big benefit, as full visibility of tasks being worked on, progress being made and any issues encountered is essential to effective product delivery.
  • Frequent deliveries of working software - development occurs in 2-4 week periods, known as sprints. Within this period, defined functionality is fully built and tested, meaning at the end of the sprint the functionality is handed over and ‘potentially shippable’.  This means working software can be at market a lot quicker than using traditional frameworks.
  • Regular opportunities to provide feedback - feedback is welcomed, as after all, it is the client’s product. What's more, due to the nature of the development process, feedback can be brought into sprints to be worked on along with development items.
  • Prioritise items for delivery - clients prioritise the backlog of development tasks that are available to be worked on. For example, if the business needs a certain piece of functionality immediately, this can be put to the top of the list to be worked on by the development team.
  • Flexibility to add and change requirements - in the demanding, ever changing digital space, this is a great benefit to clients of using scrum.
  • Reduced risk - the idea here is that risk is driven out of the project early on. Continuous testing allows any bugs to be identified early in the project and can be rectified sooner.
  • Reduced costs - Scrum projects often come in at a lower cost to traditional projects due to the reduction in time wasted through efficient development and delivery.

And what does Scrum mean to Leighton?

  • Teamwork - this is highly important.  In fact, strike that - teamwork is essential to Scrum and to any organisation! In theory, Scrum teams should always stay together, move as a team from project to project, and this is down to the important bond and working relationship the team develops.  There is a strong sense of collaboration and openness, as everyone is committed to the team, the outcomes and success.  Teamwork leads to increased respect for each other, friendship and ultimately, a happy and enjoyable working environment.  Remember, you spend a huge proportion of your life at work - happy employees with common goals are a benefit to all organisations.
  • Adaptability - for any business these days, you need to be adaptable or you fail.  Being a digital organisation, this is never truer for a company like Leighton. Having teams that are adaptable to change helps keep us at the front of our game.
  • Efficiency - less time wasted means greater and higher quality output at a lower cost. I don’t think anymore needs to be said on this!
  • Motivation and empowerment - as Scrum promotes decision making at the ‘front line’ so to speak, employees have control and influence over what they are working on. Teams in Scrum are self managing, and putting trust into the team produces better, more innovative results.
  • Increased productivity - teams know their goals and what it is they are striving to achieve. This clear vision, motivation and empowerment ultimately leads to increased productivity, with teams being supportive and helping each other out, identifying and overcoming any blockers they may have in the project.
  • Increased quality - testing is a continuous process with Scrum, with testers involved at every stage of the project, as well as, for example, developers performing code reviews. This approach mitigates potential problems and again, any issues are identified early in the process, allowing for them to be addressed before developing further.

Being a Scrum Master is more than just a personal achievement for me or something I can add to my LinkedIn profile. The whole process widened my eyes to even more possibilities of Agile project delivery, and ensures, just like my colleagues, I'm truly considering the possibilities of Scrum within each and every project I'm involved in.

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